Great Lakes: Botulism in Lakes Erie and Ontario
Frequently Asked Questions


Botulism is a neuromuscular disease caused by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum.  Botulism poisoning of fish and wildlife has recently increased in the Great Lakes.  Researchers, state and federal agencies and a variety of non-government organizations are tracking the occurrences of botulism and are investigating the possible causes behind these outbreaks.

The information provided in this publication is designed to answer questions that occur when there is a botulism outbreak in a specific area of the Great Lakes and to explain the associated ecological implications.  Recent botulism outbreaks have primarily impacted bird populations, although some species of bottom-dwelling fish have suffered localized die-offs.  The threat to human health is minimal, and the only documented cases of human sickness resulting from Type E botulism were caused by consumption of cold-smoked, vacuum packed fish during the 1960s.  This information is provided so that hunters, recreational anglers, coastal residents and interested citizens can take simple, common sense precautions to reduce or eliminate any risk from handling or consuming waterfowl or fish that have been exposed to botulism toxin.


The editors which to thank the Sea Grant programs, researchers and federal and state agencies that have provided information used in this publication.

Lead Editor:
Chiara Zuccarino-Crowe, ORISE Intern at U.S. EPA

Editorial Committee:
Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant
Helen Domske, New York Sea Grant
Beth Hinchey Malloy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and U.S. EPA
Elizabeth LaPorte, Michigan Sea Grant
Eric Obert, Pennsylvania Sea Grant
Brandon Schroeder, Michigan Sea Grant

2007 - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network.

Links above: and

Contact Information


If you recognize sickness or death in Canadian wildlife, report this to local wildlife officials or make a report directly to the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Center (CCWHC):
Call the Ontario/Nunavut Region office (Toll-Free in Ontario only): 
1-866-673-4781 (Long Distance Charge 1-519-824-4120 Ext. 54662)
Call the National Toll-Free number (across Canada) to be routed to the Ontario/Nunavut office:  1-800-567-2033

You can also call Ducks Unlimited Canada for other questions about botulism, or to report Canadian bird mortalities
Toll free:  1-800-665-DUCK

Illinois and Indiana

For botulism-related questions in Illinois or Indiana:
Elizabeth Hinchey Malloy, Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
Phone:  (312) 886-3451


For questions about botulism (or any wildlife diseases), or to report a suspected Botulism outbreak in Michigan:
Dr. Tom Cooley, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR), Wildlife Disease Laboratory
Lab email:
Phone: (517) 336-5034

For other botulism-related questions in Michigan:
Mark Breederland, Michigan Sea Grant
Phone: (231) 922-4628

New York

For questions about Fish and Wildlife, or to report a suspected botulism outbreak in New York:
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Buffalo: (716) 851-7010; Avon: (585) 226-2466; Syracuse: (315) 426-7400; Cortland: (607) 753-3095; Watertown: (315) 785-2261; Cape Vincent Research Fisheries Station: (315) 654-2147; Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit:  (716) 366-0228

For other botulism-related questions in New York:
Helen Domske, New York Sea Grant
Phone: (716) 645-3610


For botulism-related questions in Ohio:
Frank Lichtkoppler, Ohio Sea Grant
Phone: (440) 350-2267

For other fish or wildlife-related questions in Ohio:
Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife
Phone:  1-800-WILDLIFE (1-800-945-3543)


To report dead or dying birds in Pennsylvania call:

PA Game Commission at: (877) 877-0299
Presque Isle State Park: (814) 833-7424
Erie County Health Department: (814) 451-6700
For botulism-related questions in Pennsylvania:
Eric Obert, Pennsylvania Sea Grant
Phone: (814) 217-9018

United States (general)

For additional information on botulism or any other federal wildlife health issue in the U.S.:
USGS, National Wildlife Health Center
Phone:  (608) 270-2400


For botulism-related questions in Wisconsin:
Victoria Harris, Wisconsin Sea Grant
Phone: (920) 465-2795

For general fish and wildlife questions in Wisconsin:
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Bureau of Wildlife Management

For rehabilitation of sick birds in the Green Bay area of Wisconsin:
Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, rehabilitation center
Phone:  (920) 391-3685

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